Greg Biffle leads final Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — With a glimmer of hope during a tough season, Greg Biffle paced the final practice session for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, posting a 197.929 mph in his No. 16 Ford.

Biffle made 28 laps, more than any of the other 37 drivers who participated in the second of two practices Friday. Speeds dropped significantly from the first session (which Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led as one of three to top 200 mph) as drivers focused on taking laps by themselves rather than drafting in large groups.

Biffle said he posted his fast lap by briefly running in a draft early in the session.

“It looks like we’re about top five in qualifying trim, so we’re excited about a top-10 starting spot,” said the Roush Fenway Racing driver, who is 21st in points with one top 10 — a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500. “This is the first time we’ve been fastest in practice all year and have a decent qualifying speed.  That’s a little confidence-builder for us this weekend, but we would certainly like to find that kind of speed every week.  This is a little bit different because it’s restrictor plates.  These cars haven’t changed in four years.  It’s the same car, and we’re pretty decent at it.”

Saturday’s qualifying (which will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET) will mark the return of a mostly single-car format after group qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks prompted a chorus of groans from drivers and teams about its unfair nature.

“I’m really happy with the way they changed qualifying because it’s the speed of the car,” Biffle said. “It’s not who got the lucky lane or who got a draft or who laid back so far and got sucked up on a big run.  For this type of racing, we need to probably do this kind of qualifying.”

Results from Friday’s final practice:

1 Greg Biffle … 197.929 mph … 22 laps

2 Tony Stewart … 197.859 … 20 laps

3 Aric Almirola … 197.696 … 10 laps

4 Jimmie Johnson … 197.175 … 18 laps

5 Austin Dillon … 197.122 … 18 laps

6 Matt Kenseth … 196.839 … 18 laps

7 David Ragan … 196.669 … 14 laps

8 Sam Hornish Jr. … 194.603 … 11 laps

9 Casey Mears … 194.456 … 8 laps

10 Brian Scott … 193.881 … 8 laps

11 Ryan Blaney … 193.541 … 14 laps

12 Jeff Gordon … 193.322 … 2 laps

13 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 193.135 … 13 laps

14 Brad Keselowski … 192.858 … 17 laps

15 Jamie McMurray … 192.796 … 7 laps

16 Kevin Harvick … 192.719 … 11 laps

17 Kyle Larson … 192.502 … 8 laps

18 Danica Patrick … 192.440 … 14 laps

19 Kurt Busch … 192.085 … 17 laps

20 Paul Menard … 192.027 … 10 laps

21 Trevor Bayne … 191.965 … 8 laps

22 Joey Logano … 191.631 … 7 laps

23 Landon Cassill … 191.290 … 5 laps

24 David Gilliland … 191.210 … 8 laps

25 Kasey Kahne … 190.974 … 2 laps

26 Chris Buescher … 190.666 … 8 laps

27 Michael Annett … 190.393 … 11 laps

28 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 190.249 … 13 laps

29 Cole Whitt … 190.196 … 5 laps

30 Michael McDowell … 190.008 … 8 laps

31 Justin Allgaier … 189.815 … 8 laps

32 Josh Wise … 189.597 … 8 laps

33 Bobby Labonte … 189.567 … 11 laps

34 Alex Bowman … 189.522 … 2 laps

35 Brendan Gaughan … 189.185 … 5 laps

36 Matt DiBenedetto … 189.081 … 5 laps

37 JJ Yeley … 188.500 … 5 laps

38 Jeb Burton … 187.335 … 5 laps

Best 10 consecutive laps average:

1 Greg Biffle … 195.312

2 Tony Stewart … 195.259

3 Matt Kenseth … 195.098

4 Austin Dillon … 195.051

5 Jimmie Johnson … 195.045

6 David Ragan … 182.432

7 Aric Almirola … 176.804

 

Updated entry lists for Cup, Truck at Martinsville

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – STP 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the sixth Cup race of the year. D.J. Kennington is listed in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports entry.

Jeb Burton is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Ford.

Click here for the entry list.

Gander Outdoors Truck – Martinsville 250 (2 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered. Those also entered in the Cup race are Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain. Bubba Wallace is entered in AM Racing’s No. 22 truck.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America Motormouths at 5 p.m. ET with Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America presents Motormouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Kyle Petty and they’ll be joined by special guest Bubba Wallace.

Fans will have the chance to call into the show to ask questions.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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Bubba Wallace entered in Truck race at Martinsville

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AM Racing announced Wednesday that Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 22 entry in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

AM Racing tweeted: “In an effort to advance the performance component of our program, we will be putting a different Chevrolet driver in the seat of the No. 22 Chevrolet Silverado for Martinsville Speedway this weekend.”

AM Racing stated that Wallace “has been selected with very specific objectives regarding program feedback and development. His record at the track speaks for itself.”

Wallace, who will be on Wednesday’s NASCAR America (5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN), has two wins in four starts in the Truck series at Martinsville. He won there in 2013 and in 2014. Both times he won driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Austin Wayne Self had driven the No. 22 entry in the first three Truck races of the season. He finished ninth at Daytona and followed that with a 27th-place finish at Atlanta and a 15th-place finish in Las Vegas. He is 12th in the points.